Dads Weekly Reflections
If you are like us, a soother (or pacifier) can be a life saver for a period of time. We introduced a soother to each of our three girls within a few weeks of being born, and it seemed to be an added comfort for them while sleeping at night. There are a lot of different views on whether or not the benefits of a pacifier are worth the costs, but as parents we make the decisions we feel are right at the time.
So what age should you start to say bye-bye to the binky? Most dentists will recommend that you start weaning your child off at around the age of two years old.
What approach works best? We used different approaches for all three of our girls, and I can tell you the latest one worked the best. I’ve broken it down into 5 simple steps.
Step 1 – Introduce the Concept
Shortly after our youngest daughters 2nd birthday we started bringing the concept of “life without a soother” into our conversations with her. We would explain to her that she is becoming a big girl (at the opportune times), and we would emphasize that big girls don’t need soothers. We would simply say “so you won’t need a soother soon either”.
Each time our daughter would do something that showed us she was a “big girl”, we would congratulate her with a lot of praise and smiles, and then repeat that big girls don’t need soothers.
Step 2 – Slowly Reduce the Usage
We had pretty firm rules around soother usage at all times for our daughters. We would only let them use them for sleeping, in the car, or at nap times. We found that teaching them boundaries early on helped them learn to cope without the soother as they went from baby to toddler. After we had started Step 1 above (talking about losing the soother), we eventually eliminated the soother for car rides.
Any sign of distress from our daughter was met with a kind but firm “you don’t need your soother, we will be home soon”.
By eliminating one small time when our daughter used the soother, she quickly learned that she was able to comfort herself (as she was in her car seat and we could not do it for her). She learned that the anxiety wasn’t such a big deal and it would pass.
Step 3 – Negotiate and Appeal to their Sympathies
With our first child we took her soother away cold turkey. We found that it was hard on her for several days, but after about 4 days she was over it. I am not so sure my wife and I were over the anxiety of it all quite so quickly!
At the end of the day it worked and we realized that it really wasn’t a big deal after all.
With our second child we followed steps 1 and 2 until eventually she was off the soother all together. The time this took was a little longer than we would have liked, and I had started to feel some pressure that her use of the soother could have an impact on her teeth. Again, at the end of the day it worked out and she actually has a great set of teeth now.
With our youngest child, we decided to add steps 3 through 5 into the mix. Steps 1 and 2 took went much faster this time. We did them over a period of only 2 months, and we found that there was little anxiety for anyone involved. Last week we introduced the final steps.
With step 3 my wife was amazing in her ability to negotiate, persuade, and appeal to our daughters sense of sympathy. She talked to her about giving her soothers to other babies that might need them, and perhaps the Easter Bunny would be able to deliver them for us.
On Good Friday our daughter wrapped all her soothers up herself (in wrapping paper I might add), and left them out for the taking. She was so proud of what she was doing and we made sure she knew we were proud too.
The next morning we made sure that the Easter Bunny had come a night early and left her a special surprise. He had taken the soothers, and left her some chocolate and a note. She was so thrilled.
Step 4 – Reward the Effort
We decided ahead of time and old our daughter that once she had gotten rid of the soother, she would get her big girl bed. So that morning as she was eating breakfast, I proceeded to convert her crib into a day bed and called her in. Here is a picture of the bed:
I think she must have said “big girl bed” about 50 times for the rest of that day.
Step 5 – Celebrate
We skyped Oma and Opa, we skyped Grandma and Grandpa, and we skyped her Aunt to show off. We made sure that day was a grand event for our daughter and in our house. We went to Easter dinner and told everyone there. And yes, we let her eat her chocolate surprise for breakfast that day.
We have found that positive reinforcement goes so much further than negative feedback, and this was going to be no exception.
That day we did things to ensure that our daughter “missed” her nap, and come bed time she was more than ready to go to sleep. She had a little anxiety, but after only 2 or 3 minutes she was fast asleep in my wife’s arms.
Since then – no anxiety at all!
If you are wondering how or when to wean your child off, I highly recommend this five step process.
After trying several approaches, we found it to be the easiest of all……GOOD LUCK!